THUMBNAIL SKETCHES OF (130) 2021 CFB TEAMS
By Joe Gavazzi JoeGavazziSports.com
Great news for the Sooners is the defensive improvement over the last three years. In 2018, Oklahoma allowed 33/454. Making improvements each of the last two years, they allowed just 22/355 last season, including 112/3.5 YPR. Under HC Riley, now 45-8 SU in 4 years, offense is never the question. The same is true this season. QB Rattler returns to operate behind an OL that has 126 career starts. With plenty of replacements for the lost skill position players, this will again be a 40/500+ offense, among the best in the nation.
Iowa State Cyclones
In the 6th season under HC Matt Campbell, the Cyclones are 38-21 ATS including 17-6 ATS as dog, and 17-8 ATS away L5Y. That’s an instant picture of how far down the Cyclone program was (8-28 SU in the 3 years before Campbell) and a credit to how far he has taken them. This year, they will again be among the Top 20 teams in the nation. With 89% of their offensive production returning in QB Purdy (19-7 TRGS) returning for his 4th season, this offense could well surpass the 33/437 of last year. 9 returning defensive starters, who return 82% of their production, could also better the 21/341 defense of last season. The pointspread may eventually start to catch up with this team who will once again field a well-coached and experienced offense and defense. Until it does, this is a team worth backing in preferred roles or situations.
TCU Horned Frog
In 3 out of 4 years ending in 2017, 21st year HC Patterson led the Frogs to 11 or more wins. Since that year, they have declined to mediocrity with an 18-17 SU, 16-18 ATS record. Noteworthy in that regard is that Patterson has just 12 or fewer starters returning in each of those 3 seasons. Unfortunately, those results have attracted fewer and fewer recruits with their ranking dropping over 30 positions in that regard this season. Spending the previous two seasons at home for the Bowl season, and playing the 4th largest group of underclassmen after they lost 22 to the transfer portal, indicates that the boys from Fort Worth are in line for a bounce. The returning offensive production, with QB Duggan now in his 3rd year as a starter, is a positive. Even in those down seasons of the last three years, it was a defense that still allowed only an average of only 24/343. With a manageable non-con home slate to begin the season, I call for the Frogs to return to a Top 5 finish in the league.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Home is where the heart is when dealing with Oklahoma State, now in their 17th year under HC Gundy. He has a long term record, in this role, of 43-28 ATS, over 68%. Match that with the non-con record of 41-20 ATS and you will see why we will be first among those at the betting window when they host Tulsa on September 11th. This in-state rivalry has taken priority for Gundy with recent victories of 40-21 and 59-24. Returning to lead the offense is 3rd year starter QB Sanders with a decent 63% C, 30/19 ratio operating behind a veteran OL with 103 career starts. It will be no surprise to this bureau if they have a perennial 30+/400+ offense under Gundy, who will make that an imperative as this side of the ball has decreased from 45 to 30 PPG and 569 to 427 YPG L4Y. Maintaining the status quo of a defense who returns 8 starters and 82% of their tackles would be just fine, as this unit allowed just 23/379 LY against the schedule of mostly high-scoring BIG 12 teams.
To be honest, I had expected more out of 3rd year HC Brown when he matriculated from Troy to take over the reins of the Mountaineers in 2018 for former HC Holgerson. This year however, I am expecting the Mountaineers to finish in the upper half of the Conference. The offense, which did improve from 21/327 to 27/413, should more resemble Brown’s units at Troy who were perennial 30/400 units. Aiding in that regard is returning QB Doege who, in 13 starts, has 63% C and a 39/15 ratio. Maintaining the 21/292 defensive production of last year will be more of a challenge even though this unit has 7 returning starters compared to 5 for last season. No excuses for Brown who, in his 3rd year, is operating with mostly his own recruits. Time for the Mountaineers to return to a solid winning season and upper echelon finish.
I am not drinking the Steve Sarkisian Kool-Aid! He has not had a good history in the role of HC at either Washington, USC or Atlanta in the NFL. Maybe his two years as OC at Alabama will have matured him enough to get him past that Peter Principle. There certainly will be enough pressure to perform after highly thought of HC Herman was fired following a 4 season record of 32-18 SU, 26-24 ATS in which he led the Horns to a Bowl game every season. Even winning his last two games of the year at Kansas State 69-31 and vs. Miami in a Bowl game 59-23 prevented the ax from falling. Sarks first job will be to replace 4 year starting QB Ehlinger, choosing from a trio of contenders who have little or no experience. Good news for Texas is that they have 15 returning starters with a balanced amount of experience on either side of the ball. A relatively easy early slate may offer Sark a chance to work out the kinks. Yet I assure you, we will be fading him in the opener against the veteran Louisiana team who upset a better Iowa State team 31-14 to begin the season last year. Pointspread trend to watch: Sark has a home/road dichotomy of 25-16 ATS home and 14-20 ATS away.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Biggest coup of the off season 3 years ago was now 3rd year TTRR HC Wells parlaying his 11-2 SU , 9-3 ATS record of 2018 (thank you, Jordan Love) into a BI G 12 contract at TTRR who had grown weary of then HC Kingsbury recording a trio of sub .500 seasons with his Run and Shoot offense. Now Wells has stepped above his Peter Principle in recording a record of 8-14 SU, 8-12 ATS in a pair of 4 win seasons at Lubbock. Major issue has been a defense averaging a combined 34/463 those two years. Searching for success Wells will turn to 10 “super seniors” and 14 scholarship transfers. That’s a lot of turnover when you’re handing the reins to new OC Sonny Cumbie, a former QB at TTRR and 7 year Assistant at rival TCU. Entrusted with maintaining an offense that has averaged 30/452 combined in the previous two years, is QB Shough who, in 7 starts over 2 years at Oregon, had a 65% C and 16/6 ratio. New QB and new OC means probable major transition time. And with a defense whose 8 returning starters allowed 37/445, the Raiders will have much to prove to me in the early going.
Kansas State Wildcats
Wildcat HC Klieman is a winner. He coached N. Dak. State for 5 years capturing 4 FCS National Titles. His coordinators are familiar faces, OC Messingham and DC Klanderman, from his time at N. Dak. State. After an 8-5 SU, 8-4 ATS opening campaign with the Wildcats, they had just 9 returning starters last year, including none on the OL. The defense got scorched for 32/445. This year, the returning production swings the other way. 57 returning lettermen will take the field, plus 5 transfers, 4 on the defense. The offense returns 10 including QB Thompson, one of five “Super Seniors”. Even with a rugged non-con slate and the always treacherous BIG 12, I expect Klieman to return the Wildcats to the winning side of the ledger. In so doing he should improve upon his record of 10-4 ATS as dog, a long term staple, under former Kansas State legendary HC Snyder. Helping to make this happen, is the return of Senior QB Thompson who, in 30 starts, has 61% C and a 30/12 ratio. Look for the Wildcats to bounce to the winning side of the ledger and return with a post season ticket.
Defense is clearly the calling card for 2nd year HC Aranda who made his mark in former stints at Wisconsin and LSU. He will look to make improvement from their 29/383 defense of last year with 10 returning starters. On offense, there needs to be improvement, particularly from a ground game that averaged 92/2.8. New OC Grimes, former OC at BYU L3Y, will look to make that happen. With 7 returning offensive starters but less than 50% of their offensive production, a soft early season slate will be needed as the schedule gets far more difficult in the end of September.
This is the classic tale of “take the money and run”. Liepold has climbed his way up the coaching ladder. First with (6) D-3 National Titles at Wisc-Whitewater, then guiding the Buffalo Bulls for 6 years including a 6-1 SU record last season with an MOV of 43-22 and an astounding 288/6.8 RYPG. We rode him with great profit those 4 seasons where he amassed a 30-13 ATS record and a 16-1 ATS record at home. After going through spring practice with Buffalo, he bolted for the BIG 12 paycheck at Kansas, one of the worst Power 5 teams in the country. That includes 0-9 SU, 1-8 ATS LY when the Jayhawks were outscored 46-16, outgained 460-259 and outrushed 237/5.9 to 105/2.7. With nowhere to go but up, Leipold may eventually build this program into respectability. But it will not happen this season with as many as 19 returning starters, who are well indoctrinated in their losing ways.